27 January 2009

The Blizzard Effect

Lately I've been thinking of a movie I remember from the late '90s called Smilla's Sense of Snow. I don't recall much of the plot {except that it was set in Copenhagen and involved a death/murder mystery}. It starred Julia Ormond. Today, playing back in my mind what snippets of the trailer reel my brain managed to hold onto, all I can see is white. Blinding white: blanketing the landscape, capping every tree, blazing from the sky, comprising Julia Ormond-as-Smilla's wardrobe {at least this is what I remember} .

That's what this Winter Weather Advisory-reliant world we're now living in makes me think of. I returned from Market in Atlanta two weeks ago to find my city awash in risky road conditions, continuous wafting of snowflakes, and below zero wind chill temps. I know much of the rest of the country is buttoning up under the same steely skies. And guess what? Our Cleveland-area weather girls and guys are calling for much more of the white stuff on the way over the next 48 hours--we've heard up to 10 inches! This weather is adding up to slow but steady days at the store, which is giving us the opportunity to regale our shopgirls--and those earnest customers who don't want to miss the first glimpse of our earliest new arrivals--with stories of Market: what we found, what we loved, what we laughed at {you would laugh, too!}, what we passed over and why. While Debbie and I were canvassing the world's largest international home and gift show, Zoey, Jamie, and Linds were throwing the Winter Clearance Sale to end all sales back here at the shop. We returned to see some actual space on our tabletops and shelves and immediately loved the cleaner, sparer, more organized look of things. So much so that it inspires me to embrace a slightly different aesthetic from Spring forward.

While we're known for our almost crazily bounteous lushness, I came home from Market and saw my shop with new eyes. THE BLISSFUL Girls had worked their magic to zhuzh, recreate, and reenergize every corner of the shop in our absence. Since our return, we've been busy opening boxes and boxes of new finds from Market, whilst we dream, plan, sketch, debate {D: "Orange would not attract me. I would walk away from orange." L: "I disagree. Orange would draw me in."}, and chat endlessly about all that is to come this year. We wrote 78 orders in one week at the show, and 42 of them were with brand new vendors for us. In "this economy" {I say that in quotation marks because while I know unemployment and the credit crisis are realities, I think we all have to be careful to separate the FACTS from the media's energetic and often totally biased spin of the facts}, the 90,000 buyers who attended this show were reportedly being "careful." What this meant for THE BLISSFUL was making sure our finds fit into one of two categories: they either had to be a} absolutely delightful, or b} totally usable, totally practical, and still totally cool. And they have to work with our concept. And naturally, they have to be priced in a way that motivates our customers to buy.

I spent the first four nights I was home sitting up in bed with my laptop, creating a Spring Purchasing Index to help us keep track of what we found for each department of our shop. I'll give you a peek over my shoulder, but keep in mind this is just a peek!

Now In Shop...

Find No. 56 Curious Garden Gnome {the omnipresent gnome trend reigned at the ATL show}...and more styles to come a little later in the season

Find No.17 Six-petaled flower hoop earrings in Spring brights...

Find No. 39 Peace Sign Earrings in Metallic Pewter & Metallic Bronze. It's easy to overdo a trend like this and whenever something gets "hot"--like the peace sign, which was reborn into vogue late last year--a million bad renditions get mass produced. Our take on trends? We aren't trend-shy and we won't ride it 'til it dies, either.

Find No. 337
Boxwood Topiaries in all shapes, sizes, and at all price points. These green-as-green-as-nothing-else beauties can last for up to five years when kept out of direct sunlight and spritzed with water once a month or so. Notice also the sweet Mini Asparagus Fern Tree, which had I a kitchen windowsill, one would be on it. Also available in a potted ball shape.

Find No. 109 Chub Cups by Capri Blue in all of our favorite scents. This has been our hands-down bestselling candle line since we brought it into the shop two years ago, so we've decided to expand our offerings and include their Chub Cups, which are a smaller version of the ever-popular large cobalt blue jar candle. Our favorite scent for this time of year? Havana, a warm, earthy scent combining the richness of cedar wood, cedar moss, and lavender sage. To me, it smells like the "cloud of black pepper" in my favorite scratch and sniff book from childhood. Makes me smile every time.

Find No. 72
When wine bottles have wings, they make an even better gift! Clever Rusted Metal Wine Bottle Wings slip over the top of any bottle {teetotalers, try it on a vinegar bottle or a vintage Coca Cola bottle}.

Find No. 34 I want to be this mannequin. Ruffled and pinstriped with contrasting Moroccan-print trim and embroidered with happy, hippie-ish flowers, this has to be the cutest Beach Cover Up I've ever seen. Also darling over jeans. Throw our bright tote {handmade from vintage Guatemalan blouses--only one available!} over one shoulder and you're ready to hit the beach or the park...and if you're in Ohio, that'd be the one in your imagination for a couple more months yet.

Find No. 191 Natural Wooden Bangles inlaid with crystals. These are shopgirl Jamie's favorite thing in the whole store right now.

Find No. 247
These Silver Plated Wall Hooks are currently my favorite thing in our Hardware department.

Find No. 60 Hardware galore!
Vintage-looking drawer pulls in an array of colors.

Find No. 89 Silk Scarf Totes are light as a feather but heavy on a pop of Spring style.

Find No. 216
Cotton sarongs. I leave for vacation in three weeks so I brought all three of my bathing suits to the shop today in order to find one sarong that can work with each of them.

Find No. 92
Because we mustn't overlook the fact that we are in Ohio, we brought back a great assortment of fun and pretty scarves. Winter isn't over yet, though one can dream...

Find No. 43 Spring accessories for the kitchen and rooms beyond.

New customers usually start asking us in early January if we "do" Valentine's Day at THE BLISSFUL. Yes, we do, but not often in the traditional sense.

Very little of what we choose in the way of V-Day adornments and gifts couldn't also be used at other times of the year. We think less theme-y, more everyday romantic. But we always try to have some kind of seasonally-appropriate gourmet goodie on hand. Which brings me to...

Find No. 88 This year, it's caramel-enrobed marshmallows, individually wrapped fudge pieces in assorted flavors, and these tubes filled with a healthy-{ish} mixture of chocolate covered sunflower seeds with dried cranberries and cherries. All of the flavor, less of the guilt.

While I'm on the topic, here are a few other Valentine's-oriented finds...

Heart-shaped Venetian glass photo frames from Belgium...

For a hint of Spring with a Valentine's twist, Pink Quail Eggs in a wooden crate. Also available in Blue and Green...

Battered metal hearts
in a warm, bronze-y tone. Hung from a rawhide ribbon...

Mercury glass scalloped pedestal votive cups are a cute vessel for tucking petite wrapped candies into...

Garden pots in baby pinks and soft greens start to set the tone for Spring...

And then there's one of my new favorite housewarming/wedding gifts, the Heart-Shaped Pewter Measuring Spoon set...

While fresh French Lavender Bouquets tied up in kraft paper and twine are always in season...

& Coming Very Soon...

Find No. 4 One-Winged Gargoyle for Garden {he looks so mischievous}
Find No. 72 Zinc Pots with Enamel Numbers 1-9 {too flippin' cute}
Find No. 90 Downtown Tokyo-Inspired Wristlet Clutch in Smoke or Plum {I will have one of these}
Find No. 111 Handpainted Thermoses with Stainless Steel interiors {I almost jumped for joy when I saw these}
No. 127 "Keep Calm & Carry On" tanks {probably one of my top 5 favorite finds from this show}

& Coming a Little Later Into the Spring...

Find No. 19 French Menu-Style Chalkboard with Heavily Carved Wooden Frame {a knock out}
Find No. 44
Silver Fromaggio Knives {the new bestselling hostess gift}
Find No. 191 Funky Printed Cotton Tablecloths with Pom-Pom Trim {customers loved these so much last year that our vendor expanded their offerings}
Find No. 68 Woven Linen & Burlap Printed Grain Sack Rags & Runner {you'll flip, I swear}
Find No. 267 Urban Loft Side Table on Wheels {this could work in almost any room}
Find No. 301 Vintage Wooden Hand Forms {one of those curiosities we just won't give up, no matter "this economy"}

And so much more. While we snug ourselves away in the shop during these chilly days of Winter, we're photographing many of our newly arrived finds for the Online Boutique, so keep watching for new additions in just about every department! As always, feel free to e-mail or call us for more info about anything you've seen on the blog that may not have made it into the Online Boutique yet. The brick-and-mortar store is changing almost daily. Gone is the earlier-mentioned space on tables and shelves, as new arrivals are making their debut.

We hope you'll stop in soon as we're daily unveiling the very best of what was fresh and part-with-our-pennies-worthy from Market. I can tell you one thing: it's going to be a very good year. Let's keep calm and carry on.

10 January 2009

Market Notebook, Day Five

I don't want to believe that tomorrow is our last full day here. We've seen a lot but no matter how many hours a day you walk, it never feels as if you've seen enough {though rest assured, with the amount of research and pre-planning that we put into our trips, I'm pretty confident that we are seeing the best that this show has to offer for THE BLISSFUL, though you always have the feeling there's something else you might want just around the corner}. Now as far as what we've purchased, like all shop owners, we not only have to keep in mind what fits the look, but what will sell and what people are willing to pay for.

Today shoppers looked tired, worn out, and stressed. Just when I was apologizing to a sales rep in a showroom for the debate Debbie and I were having in front of her about whether to bring in just four fragrances in a pillar candle collection or all six {we went with all six}, Debbie whispered, "Look at her," and gestured to another buyer standing about five feet away from us, rubbing her forehead wearily while she had a similar conversation with her buying partner and a sales rep. We're all feeling it: this is the day when Market gets tough, when we're all weary and a bit worried. Have we found enough that's new? What else do we still need? What elusive items have we been dreaming of but haven't found yet? Can we find it in the time we have left? Will we still like what we ordered when we're unpacking it in our stores a few months from now?

Debbie described the vibe today as panning for gold. We're all dipping our pans down in the water, bringing them to the surface, and shaking and sifting for those shiny wonders. She also said that the buyers wearing Ugg boots are probably doing it the most comfortably. Man, those million plus square feet of concrete floors sure take a toll on your back, legs, and feet, not to mention how the catalog-stuffed totes and bookbags we all carry dig in to our achy shoulders. I've been popping Advil like breathmints this week. Sorry there aren't any photos in this post; I finally had to take my camera out of my shoulder bag this morning because I could feel even its few ounces of extra weight.

Before I shut off this laptop and try to fall asleep, I should mention that mine eyes have seen the glory of Sid Dickens' Spring 2009 collection, "Madeleine." Fans who were surprised by the direction of his last collection, "Tattoo" {which I think is terribly cool}, will be relieved that Sid appears to have returned to his more classical and traditional roots with this one. I didn't have a chance to read the backs of the Blocks for the names and sentiments to catch the through-thread of the collection, but there is a cherub, a Virgin Mary, a breathtaking bright cobalt blue and off white tapesty-esque design, two red botanical tiles that are probably going to make it onto our bestseller list, one that says Labyrinth, and a black and white crossword puzzle/gameboard-ish one.

When I arrived in Atlanta five days ago, I said that I needed this show to be a good one. I needed a fresh vision for the year, mostly for myself, but also for the shop. Running a retail boutique is a lifestyle of continuous questing. You are always in search of the next thing, the next story, concept, theme, motif, trend, color, moment in design, etc. And that's just about the merchandise! The constant search can become psychologically and emotionally taxing. Every shop owner I know is in chronic need of more time to relax, let down her hair, get refreshed, and live in the moment. I am happy to say that this particular Market has yielded much in the way of inspiration and actual finds to bring in to the shop, but more than anything, I am starting to get my inner groove back. I hope others at this show are feeling the same way.

You'll catch me in the Gift and Home Furnishings Temps tomorrow!

09 January 2009

Market Notebook, Day Four

Market comes down to this: everyone is looking for a product to believe in. As a store owner writing orders and handing over your credit card again and again, you are hoping {sometimes praying} that you've chosen well and that your customers will feel the same way, as every customer shopping for a gift in your store wants to believe that her selection will touch and affect her recipient in a real and genuine way {what comes to mind is the tall order one of my customers gave me several weeks back: "I need a gift for my best friend of forty years. She's very unique, she already has everything she wants, and it has to be the best thing either of us has seen all year. Oh, and it has to be under $50."}. As I sit here typing away in my hotel bed again tonight, I'm reflecting on how good of a show this has been these past four days and how much more I want to discover and fall in love with over the next two and a quarter days. I hope all of the other shop owners walking this show are feeling similarly positive.

Found these in the Cash & Carry Jewelry Temps this morning.

In my observation, attendance still seems a bit thin even now that the temporaries are open, though all the vendors I've spoken to are saying it's been a good show for them with no discernible difference. I'll be interested to see the reports coming out of Home Accents Today soon.

We scored some great new lines and finds today and simultaneously, we are trying to make some decisions about what to do with lines and items that have sold well up until now but that we are frankly tired of {and in some cases, customers probably are, too}. In retail, it's equally important to know when to turn over a new leaf and when to stay put and dig your heels in with a strong seller. For instance, I visited a vendor in the Temps who I order from season after season, but whose offerings, quite frankly, leave me a bit cold. There's nothing lacking in terms of design or desirability--it's just not a line I'm excited about any longer. I continue to grapple with whether to move on for good or to just bite the bullet and order deep for Spring. Get it in, get it going, get it reordered, and swallow my ambivalence about it.

Happily, I managed to make that tough decision with a different line today, texting Zoey at the shop this afternoon and saying, "Make nice sale signs for half off of $(%@(!*. We're clearancing it once and for all!" Retail wisdom says that if you don't love a line, it's hard to sell it, and I'm tired of fighting my lagging enthusiasm for this line.

At this show, I've learned that vendors feel the same way sometimes. We were dismayed to learn a few months back that one of our bestselling inventory items was not only sold out from our vendor but was being permanently discontinued. No explanation, the item was just gone. I called and e-mailed the vendor repeatedly, expressing to them how well this item sold for us and how we could hardly keep it in stock. This week, I got to speak with the showroom owner, who told me that he purposely cut the item from his collection because he's "sick of it." Not only sick of it, but "embarrassed to have it in [his] showroom!" He then went on to mock the very aspect of the item's design that my customers and I loved best! I told him why I thought customers loved the item and couldn't get enough of it. He hemmed and hawed around and said something like, "Okay, okay." But both Debbie and I know he's not bringing this item back. The man is just done and we've got to move on to something else, too.

Time to hit the sack now. Only two days left for us at this show. Have to be focused and alert tomorrow. On our agenda: we'll start our day in Building 3, Floor 4, which features great "body and soul" {read: apothecary and candle} lines, niche press stationery, and the "juried boutique" collection of jewelry and fashion accessories. Still looking for more amazing tee-shirts for Spring, more jewels, cool cards and paper, and possibly another body care line. We'll also hit the Home Accents Temps and more showrooms in Building 2 {formerly the Gift Mart}, where we'll search out "nifty gifties" {anyone out there love The Office}?

08 January 2009

Market Notebook, First Three Days

Here we are in Atlanta, Debbie and I. That's me on the right, croissant in hand.

This has been our daily breakfast routine since arriving three days ago in search of all that is new, fresh, and BLISSFUL for Spring, for everyday, and for {yes} Holiday '09. Right now, I'm propped up in bed, and my shiny new laptop rests atop a fluffy white Hyatt pillow {though our first night's stay at the Marriott Marquis after getting bumped out of the overbooked-due-to-renovation Hyatt Regency shocked us into become Marriott guests from this point forward--better lobby restaurant, fluffier pillows, voluptuous mattress, down comforter like Marshmallow Dream Whip. Take a note, Hyatt people, weary travelers love those down comforters.} Overheard from the bed next to me, just a minute ago: "I can't flippin' move. Are these sheets made of lead?"

For weeks now, this Atlanta show has loomed for me like a beacon of hope on the horizon. 2008 was one wearying year, a year of high professional highs {thank you, amazing customers, for giving us our best Holiday season in three years and for growing our sales revenues exponentially over the whole year} but on the personal front, some low lows and many tolerably uncomfortable valleys. To tell the truth, this year sucked and I couldn't wait to get out of it. I, the self-professed "incurable optimist," came into 2009 wondering if it was too much to ask that this year be a good one. This was the first year in a dozen I didn't write down goals and resolutions. I am open to a vision, but so far everything looks like one big question mark. I needed this show to be good.

And so far, it has been. Very good, in fact. After last year's decidedly lackluster showing across practically all product categories, it now looks and feels as if design is back. And THE BLISSFUL is here for the party.

This is How We Do It {Montell Jordan reference for those in my generation}

We {Debbie who is our head stylist/my mom/my buying partner} and I decided to shop this Market differently than we ever have before. Every time you do one of these shows you do it a little better and you learn what works best for you. First of all, this is the longest time we've ever stayed at a show. Usually we only manage to escape the shop for three and a half days, but this year, having a dream staff in place, we knew we could stay the whole week and feel good about it. Secondly, rather than prioritize our old faithfuls {our regular vendors from whom we order every season}, we decided to prioritize the unsung, the untried, and the nouveau. We are prioritizing shopping for those categories we've generally devoted the least attention to at Markets past. For us, that's Christmas {it usually takes us 'til Spring for our look and theme to come together} and jewelry/apparel/personal accessories, a category in our shop that has seen rapid growth and one that our customers are veerrrry interested in.

Bright Lights, Big Showroom

We started this year's Market quest on one of the Cash & Carry jewelry floors in Building 3, formerly called the Apparel Mart. Cash & Carry areas are the only areas of the show in which you physically take your product home with you {or, in our case, we'll ship it home}; everywhere else, you work with a sales rep in the showroom to write an order, which gets invoiced and shipped to you later on your desired ship date {providing the vendor receives it by then from their manufacturer, or in the case of a smaller handmade vendor, can fulfill the order within your desired timeframe}. In the past, we've saved these free-for-all Cash & Carry floors for last, somewhat dreading them because of how nuts they appear when you walk past. But because of the explosive demand for more jewelry at all price points from our customers, we've decided to bite the bullet and go after it first. It's nice to be able to pick this stuff out in person rather than ordering from afar via catalog or web store, or ordering in a showroom and then not receiving the product until weeks and often months later {"I ordered that?"}. Though the ultra bright florescents and strategically aimed spotlights in every single row of these jam-packed showrooms threatened to induce a migraine, we made out well. {Pictures to come of what we found.} Hot motifs in jewelry right now, from what I observed: peace signs, gothic/medieval crosses, heraldic emblems, natural/eco/hippie/indie meets bling {we found these chunky weathered wood bangles inlaid with tiny crystals--sparkle meets granola with absolutely no gaudy factor}. Chandelier earrings are still prominent, but the shapes and lengths are even more statement than before. I noticed that all the women on Bravo's Real Housewives of Orange County {sure, I watch it!} have been wearing big big earrings lately and I think they {the earrings} are very modern and very stylish. Rose and other flower shapes as pendants on necklaces and cabachons on rings and earrings are still around in bold colors in lucite. Metallics are still hanging in there--not so much true gold and silver tones, but the "off" tones: bronze, copper, platinum, pewter. What looks over to me: silver ball chains, choker length necklaces, Victorian styling and photo jewelry and some of the "collage" look. Sorry, folks, this is just my eye.

Fa La La La La, La-La-La...Hmm

Holiday '09, Holiday '09. It's time to conceive of Holiday '09.

I didn't want to spell it out on the blog last year, but I was sorely disappointed with vendors' Holiday decor offerings last year. I thought there was little that felt fresh or looked new or tempting. I put off ordering it forever because I just wasn't finding what I wanted. As a result, it was tough to pull together a look and even though customers said the store looked better than ever this past Holiday season, I still don't feel that we had a cohesive, compelling story to wrap our excitement around. It sold, but it didn't blow me away. This year, I want to be blown away.

For Holiday'09, we wanted to go toward more color. Our Holiday look for '08 was very neutral {one new customer shopped the store this past season, then turned around at the front door and said to her friend/shopping companion in a marveling tone, "There is no color in this store."} Yikes! How did we become a no-color store? I think one-palette stores {as I think of them} are lovely, but I never intended to morph into one. I guess as your buyer's eye and your retail wisdom evolves, you learn that neutrals sell because they're easy for every customer to work into her existing decor. And they're easy to merchandise--everything goes together. But I want to resist sameness on any level. So this year we have been desirous of reds and greens and chocolates {not all three on the same tree, though} with the platinums and silver glitters that our customers have loved...but once again, we are gravitating toward those neutral metallics. I have seen some striking peacock blue and chocolate brown trees grounded by snowy white and some wonderfully high-falutin' Scottish tartan trees gussied up in layers of ruffled and pintucked ribbon, but I'm not convinced that either of those looks would be fitting for us. So toward my Wendy Addison I waltz. Her line has some great new surprises this year that I think you all will love. We've picked up a few other great Christmas vendors at this show, too. We're trying to keep the look traditional with a fun, sweet, modern edge {something you really want to live with at the Holidays} and the price points affordable {we said no to a gorgeous line of tonal mercury glass and frosted glass ornaments that would've retailed in the $40-$80/per ornament range; to sell these, you'd really have to commit to showing the customer why it's worth it, and frankly, shouldn't we retailers have better things to do at Christmastime than foist expensive tree ornaments on people?}.

Here's what I've been seeing for Holiday '09, not necessarily for THE BLISSFUL, but across many showrooms: glitter glass continues to be in, though I suspect its wave has crested; metallics are still the predominant look, outshining the traditional pairing of red and green; Christmas red is not as prominent as its variations, from deep ruby to crimson to black cherry, even seguing into violets and shadowy plums; green is good quite literally, mostly mixed with golds, silvers, platinums, caramels, and browns; the grey to black scale is still a side story {for those interested, Melrose is doing some gorgeous charcoals, dove grays, and ebonies}; traditional ribbons make a return to the tree--over and over I saw showrooms layering three to five complimentary or contrasting ribbons back to back, then looping, tucking, and folding them upon themselves, weaving them into and around tree branches to create a ruched effect throughout the whole tree--very homey yet very different; as in jewelry, the natural/earthy/lodge-y look meets bling in the form of chandeliers, crystals, icicles, glitter, metallics, etc.; the elegant lodge look is still around but it's bigger, better, luxer, and more contemporary than it was last year {this is the Holiday look we were going to do in 2008 but veered away from at the last minute, fretting it would still look/read too "country" to our customers' collective eye}.

How to Get Drunk and Fat in Five Minutes

You'll notice that my Market posts are always a little light on pictures of, well, Market. This is because there is a strict No Photography rule in the showrooms. Not everyone abides by this rule, and I'm sure some who get around it have asked permission, but the reason behind it is to protect the integrity of the artists' designs. Some of what we see at Market are prototypes, not yet manufactured and sold to the public. I know how angst-y and up in arms I get when I see someone taking photos in my store without asking for permission {especially--ahem--when they're employees at a shop nearby}, so I want to give my vendors the same respect I hope shoppers in my store give me and my staff.

Exterior shot of Building 1, formerly known as the Merchandise Mart. We shot a quick video of ourselves standing outside it to send to our Shopgirls at home. Yes, we really do get that excited.

So instead of Market shots, you'll get food shots on this blog. Inside the showrooms, it seems as if there's something to nibble on at every turn. Vendors want to help keep buyers' blood sugar stable, I guess, in hopes that they'll keep shopping. Before we came to Atlanta, I had been dieting for about eight weeks. I'd only lost six pounds, but I'd established a six-day a week workout routine and have been feeling very strong and looking a bit more lean and generally feeling pretty good {local customers, don't go giving me the once over, please}. I knew much of my careful, eat-small-balanced-meals-five-times-a-day practice would go out the door once that Market badge went 'round my neck. Please don't tell me about PowerBars and portable protein shakes. I well know all that. When shopping a Mart, sometimes you must have the occasional chip {or twenty-seven} dipped in green salsa:

Or chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling:

And when the rep in the showroom you stumble into, weary and swollen-footed, asks you, "Y'all need a margarita?" and then follows that up with, "With salt or without?" of course you must say yes! Now mind you, I enjoy a cocktail OR one glass of good red wine approximately once a month...and I can't think of a better time than when I'm power shopping. Trouble is, when you don't imbibe often and then do so on a fairly empty stomach...it really hits you.

But I made up for it, the empty stomach, that is. Here's a log of today's dietary damage:

8:52 AM Black Coffee, Croissant, Water
12:04 PM Margarita on the Rocks, with salt, in showroom
1:37 PM Clam Chowder, Iceberg Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing, 3 Slices Bread with butter, Diet Coke
3:38 PM Mini Hershey Bar, one Rollo in showroom
4:12 PM Pecan Sandie cookie in showroom {of course! where else?}
6:40 PM Beer Battered Fish Sliders with lettuce and tartar sauce {don't judge me}, French Fries with malt vinegar and ketchup {please}, Cole Slaw {thanks}, Diet Coke
8:03 PM Earl Grey Tea {ah yes, so healthy}, bag of M&M's {just the regular size}

Oh yes I did eat all that.

My boyfriend had the nerve to ask me on the phone tonight if I'm exercising while I'm at Market. Isn't walking ten hours a day across a million-plus square foot campus considered exercise?

The Search Continues

There's so much to see here we'll never see it all. No one will. That's just a given. Markets really should be open for two full weeks at a time, not just a week. Debbie commented tonight that the really great finds are those that you just stumble across, like the amazing full-length canvases of Adam and Eve we found today {they'll be shipped to us next week already!}, or the mercury glass jelly jars {unusable for canning, of course, but perfect for candles} we found in a most unlikely place. We have a few significant holes to fill in our merchandise mix, entire collections we're in search of as well as items and types of items. Sometimes we don't know quite what we're looking for, just that we'll know it instinctively when we see it. I am keeping my fingers crossed for our last three days here. I want to find some great new X*&#@) that customers will respond to as positively as they first did with the ones we've carried for a while now. And if we do order #&^+! from _*&^%$, I want to be at peace with it and believe that they're truly the best we can find for the money. And I have to find some new @)(*%%m because customers have been requesting those like crazy lately and I can't get the same ones we had last Spring.

Thoughts on Shopkeeping

One lesson I'm taking away from this show is about the art of selling. I like to forget that my business is the business of selling, although of course that's the bottom line. If we don't sell, we can't keep our doors open. And of course there is showmanship to it. I've written before on this blog how what we sell as independent retailers is about so much more than just the stuff--or it ought to be. It's also and ideally, mostly, about the experience we create for our customers. And the cool thing is, they can have that for free {sort of} even if they buy nothing {but then we're back to the old someone's gotta be buying it or we can't keep our doors open}. Being a retailer who rarely shops {weird, I know}, I am not too too often in an artful retail environment outside of my own store {Walgreen's doesn't count}. Maybe several times a year I'll get to Anthropologie, or I'll be lucky enough to pop into some great independents when I'm in other cities. So Market for me is a chance to be in artful selling environments with others who are professional sales people. And wow does this experience ever teach you about how to sell and how not to. And about what you enjoy about being sold to and what you detest. I am a customer who prefers a very low-key approach. In my own store, I would prefer that myself and my employees interact as little with the customers as would be necessary to make the customer feel good about shopping in the store. I would love it if we could post a sign at the door that says, We won't ignore you, but we won't go out of our way to obnoxiously greet you, either. Just make yourself comfortable. It would be our pleasure to assist you in any way you might desire, but we want you to make this experience yours. We're here if you need us. In fact, we're all about you, so much so that we won't get in your way. In fact, I wish that when we check in and get our badges at Market, we could also select one of three signs to wear. One would say, "Please greet me and offer me help. I like a lot of support when shopping." Another would say, "Please allow me to ask for help if I need it. I prefer to shop independently." {That would be my sign.} A third {for those who don't get as worked up about these things as I do} would say, "Try me."

I say all of the above to say that we've had a lot of frustrating experiences this week in trying to get acquainted with certain showrooms and product lines and continually being thwarted by not one, not two, but sometimes three reps in a row greeting us profusely and asking questions about what type of store we have--hardly crimes, I know--but then peppering us with so much detailed information about the lines and minimum order requirements and where things are made and the personal stories of who designed them that we honestly can't even look quietly at the line or think about how we might work it into our mix! As Debbie said to me, we don't care one whit about where the product is made or what inspired it until we think it might be right for the shop. There are too many thousands of lines and millions of items here at this show to consider to get mired down for even twenty minutes listening to "funny stories" about what we clearly know isn't right for us. This high-impact sales approach irks and somewhat offends me because it's all about the rep putting their job performance before their customers' needs. At least let us walk through the space before approaching and barraging us with questions and info!

We've also had a lot of wonderful experiences this week working with reps who listen, let the store owners direct the appointment, don't oversuggest lines that may or may not be right for the shop, and try to make a genuine, albeit brief, connection with us as buyers outside of just a selling relationship. Let us never forget that we're all real people here!

To-MOR-row, To-MOR-row, I Love Ya...

Tomorrow's going to be a big day. We've pulled at least a dozen pages out of our homemade binder of floorplans and they're all marked up with notes about new lines to check out {like the jewelry line whose stunningly cool ring a rep in another showroom was wearing today}, regular vendors to check in on, etc. We still have to hit the revamped area for outdoor decor called The Gardens and finish some floors in Building 2 {formerly called the Gift Mart}, but not before we hit our top three spots of the day: the Cash & Carry Jewelry Temporaries in Building 3, Floor 1, Europe's Finest Temp Booths in Building 1, Floor 1, and High Design Temps {we always score big here} in Building 2, Floor 1. Yes, the Temps open tomorrow and we'll start our day there.

Off to bed now. . .

05 January 2009

To Market, To Market

We're off to Market in Atlanta early tomorrow morning. This is the biggest show we attend all year, often twice a year. I'll report back here on the blog with stories, behind the scenes goings-on, my trend report, and more. There's a possibility I may even blog from Market for the first time ever {thank you, Santa, for my new bronze laptop}.

Meanwhile, we're having a massive Winter Clearance Sale at the shop. Stop on in and help us make way for new Market finds!